Dealing with Morons – Why Do People No Longer Listen?

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I just disconnected from yet another frustrating exercise in telephone annoyance. The more I use the phone, the more I find myself wondering how anything is getting done in this country. No, I take that back – things are getting done. They are being accomplished poorly and with little concern for quality or meeting deadlines.

Honestly, when I verbally present my wife’s Email address, and the customer service representative on the other end of the line can’t even properly spell the name “Betsy,” I just lose it. If I were asking her to spell Kishacoquillas High School (Yes, this is an actually high school in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania) I could understand her confused fumbling around and repeated requests for me to spell It. But my wife’s name, “Betsy?” Come on!

What has happened to our educational system that people on the other end of my phone can’t spell simple English words? I am not speaking about the people in India who are happily resolving my repeated problems with my computer. No, they actually appear to have a better command of the English language than many of my native-born fellow travelers. When their computer-operated cash register went down, I watched a young lady at my local Dunkin’ Donuts struggle to figure out that $4.32 from a $5.00 bill leaves .68 cents change.

And speaking of which, how many times, dear reader, have you picked up your order from the drive-in window of some fast food joint, only to find out down the road that the bagel with cream cheese you ordered somehow during your drive to work magically evolved into a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant? My experiences like this are legion, and if I as a single person have had this happen more times than I can count, it must be representative of a nationwide epidemic of  sheer incompetence.

My experience this morning is symptomatic of a deeper problem we have in this country. No one is listening anymore.  I can’t tell you how many times I have been on my phone, trying to resolve some problem with an overeager customer service representative who just kept talking, and talking, and talking. Holy St. Peter…..shut the hell up and listen to what I am actually saying before you run on and on and on!! I have had conversations that go something like this:

“But on the fourth of April…..”

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak…..”

“But they already cashed the check…..”

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak……”

Ma’am, that’s not the issue here…..”

“Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak…..”

until finally, in a state of annoyed desperation I have to yell into the phone.

“WILL YOU SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO WHAT I AM SAYING?”

And then I am the one who is the bad guy.

Why is it that so many times, being forceful, rude, or downright obnoxious is the only way to get someone to pay attention to you? It is as if I am dealing with a robotic program, or trained monkeys who cannot respond outside of the response parameters they have been given. Seriously, I have had people three times in a row repeat to me what sounds like a completely canned response. When I ask “Are you hearing what I am saying?” I get the same response yet again. It is maddening!

My first wife passed away in 2006, the beneficiary of 35 years of two-pack-a-day smoking. It took four years for her lungs to go from needing supplemental oxygen to a state of unworkable mush causing her death. Along that sad journey, numerous trips were required to the emergency room and our primary care physician’s office, to be referred to another specialist or written another prescription. The particular event I speak of now happened almost 20 years ago, so I don’t remember the particulars, but after a number of times of getting wrong information and/or wrong prescriptions from the doctor’s office, I was completely fed up with the level of incompetence with which I was dealing. One day, after trying for five minutes to straighten out yet another botched prescription over the phone with her doctor’s office, like Bruce Banner splitting his shirt open in shades of green malevolence, I devolved into — SNOTTY!!!

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And earn it they did, a verbal dressing down of monumental rudeness and anger. Which exercise of my frustration resulted in being invited to visit with the office manager the next time we arrived at her doctor’s office. While my wife is in with her physician, the office manager proceeds to give me a not so friendly questioning regarding “treating my people rudely,” accompanied by a warning that there are other doctors to whom we can bring her health concerns. I, in return, politely but firmly outlined the frustrations which had pushed me to the point of being obnoxious, including my concerns over a wrongly written prescription which could have killed Karen quicker than the COPD that was taking her breath from her. Visibly embarrassed by the lack of professionalism I had detailed, he apologized and stated firmly that he would look into the matter, promising it would not happen again.

“Isn’t it a shame, sir,” I opined as I left his office, “that a person has to resort to being a rude jerk to finally get listened to?”

What has happened to our country that folks no longer listen? 

ADDENDUM:  This next one was so classic that I just have to add it to my list of people who are lucky they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

In my business, I sometimes have to go through security checkpoints at places which do defense contracting. At one particular building, which I have gone to several times, I expect to see the door to the guardhouse open and the guard greet me with a smile.

Not this time.

I pulled up to the guardhouse and waited for at least a minute before the door was slid open by a rotund young woman with a less-than-happy expression on her face. Her whole demeanor suggested that she would rather be shoveling coal in hell than doing the job for which she was being paid.

As per my routine at this stop, I produced my driver’s license and business card, holding them approximately three feet from her face so she could easily see them. She glared at me with the same expression one would give an annoying fly at picnic table, then proceeded to ask me where I am going and what is my business.

“I have to pick up vacuum cleaners for repair. I’m going over there to the loading dock,” I replied, pointing to the dock, which was 50 feet from where we were.

 “You got any identification?”

I resisted the desire to wave in her face the two pieces of identification which I was holding not three feet from her and say, “What does this look like to you?”  She wasn’t worth losing my business with my largest account.

Morons.  They’re everywhere.

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